Self in the Theoretical Writings of Sartre and Kant

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This book argues that Kant and Sartre share a significant number of fundamental philosophical theses by exploring Sartre’s critiques against Kant. Beginning with The Transcendence of the Ego, it is shown that Sartre’s misconception of transcendental philosophy resulted in him not giving sufficient consideration to the ontological claims made by Kant in The Critique of Pure Reason, which led to Sartre’s confusion on the relation between Kant’s and his own account of self. After a consideration of their views on what the self is, Sartre’s writings on the reflective and the pre-reflective cogito in Being and Nothingness are compared to Kant’s accounts of inner sense and apperception. Ultimately, it is shown that the task of knowing self exemplifies the more general problem of the metaphysical and epistemic relation of subject to objects, and, like Kant, Sartre draws a transcendental distinction between things as they appear and as they are in themselves.


“ ... the meticulous work of Dr. Darnell, moving back and forth between the essay “The Transcendence of the Ego” and the relevant portions of Being and Nothingness [both by Sartre], on the one hand, and The Critique of Pure Reason [Kant] on the other, and extensively utilizing the world of recent secondary literature, demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that Sartre ‘got Kant wrong’ in some very fundamental respects, and hence that his own theory of consciousness is in fact far close to Kant’s that almost any other commentator has yet dared publicly to suggest ... This book concludes with a challenge to both Kant and Sartre scholars, particularly the latter, to undertake a reconstructive analysis of the ontology, as well as the epistemology, of Being and Nothingness with a view to enhancing its plausibility of its claims, and, hence, its relevance ...” – (from the Foreword) Professor William McBride, Purdue University

“The stated goal of this work is to put Sartre in communication with Kant ... By a close and lucid reading, the author does a superb job of supporting her claim that Sartre is more of a Kantian that he ever guessed ... She does so without distorting either philosopher’s view and without collapsing important differences between them ... This book will cause readers – even those intimately acquainted with the texts – to rethink some of the central distinctions at play in the work of each philosopher ...” Professor Kathleen Wider, University of Michigan-Dearborn

“In this book, Professor Darnell puts forward a provocative thesis bound to have a significant impact upon Sartre scholarship: Sartre misunderstood Kant in significant ways …This book is particularly notable for its command of very difficult problems in both Kant and Sartre. Professor Darnell navigates between the texts of both philosophers with ease, and knows precisely the relevant texts and concerns needed in order to put the two in dialogue with one another … This study is groundbreaking in the seriousness in which it approaches the relation between the philosophy of both Kant and Sartre. The goal of this project is not to only use Kantian insights to help fill some of the gaps in Sartre’s theory, but also to use Sartre’s insights to help understand the relation between transcendental and empirical accounts of consciousness. In this she has succeeded admirably.” – Professor Jacqueline Mariña, Purdue University

Table of Contents

Foreword by William McBride
1. Transcendental Philosophy of Kant and Sartre
2. Kant’s Account of Self/Selves
3. Relating Sartre’s Account of Self to Kant
4. Knowing Self
5. Transcendental Idealism

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